Mickey Mouse has appeared in many Christmas themed specials and shorts over the years. I suppose that should be expected of a character who has been around for over 80 years. I don’t think he’s appeared in more Christmas specials than any other popular character (the boys in South Park actually had a nice streak going on of a Christmas special nearly every year) but he’s certainly in the discussion. Many of Mickey’s Christmas exploits took place on the big screen in the form of shorts, but have since become television staples during the Christmas season. Rather than make an individual post here and there on certain ones, I’ve decided to make one long post that hits on the ones I’m most familiar with. This list isn’t exhaustive as I’m sure there are more modern television specials that I’m not familiar with, but consider this a good start. The following list is in chronological order, starting with the earliest. They’re all available on DVD in some fashion, and the old shorts can be found on youtube as well (Disney is pretty lax with its old shorts when it comes to youtube, probably because the Treasures line of DVDs is out of print)
Mickey’s Good Deed (1932)
Mickey’s rise to fame nearly coincided with The Great Depression. As such, it’s a pretty common site to see Mickey depicted poor and penniless. In Mickey’s Good Deed, he’s a street performer looking to make a buck. As far as we know, his only possessions are his cello and Pluto. After a day of playing, Mickey and Pluto look to score some dinner and find that passer-byes have been tossing nuts and bolts into Mickey’s cup instead of coins. Down on their luck, Mickey has a mishap that leads to the destruction of his cello, while a rich pig offers to buy Pluto for his bratty kid. Mickey, of course, refuses but he soon happens upon a family of poor cats. Wanting to give them a good Christmas, Mickey reluctantly sells his dog, dresses up as Santa, and gives the cat family a nice Christmas. Pluto, meanwhile, is miserable as he’s abused by the bratty boy pig leading to the father tossing him out and spanking his kid. Pluto is able to happen upon a despondent Mickey and we get a nice, happy ending. It’s a cute little Christmas short that unfortunately is never shown on air because of one instance of perceived racist imagery. A little balloon the Santa Mickey carries appears to depict a blackface character portrait on it. This means the short is relegated to the vault section on the release Mickey Mouse In Black and White Volume 2. Despite that, it’s actually been released here and there on VHS and DVD, including a colorized version on the most recent release Holiday Celebration with Mickey and Pals.
Toy Tinkers (1949)
I’m cheating here, because this is actually a Donald Duck short and does not feature Mickey, but who cares? This Christmas themed short pits Donald versus perhaps his most famous antagonists: Chip and Dale. While out chopping down a Christmas tree, the mischievous chipmunks take notice and follow Donald back to his home where they see a nice, warm environment and bowls full of nuts. The duo slip in and immediately start using the toys around the tree to transport the nuts out of there. Donald, not one for charity, takes note and a full-scale battle breaks out over the nuts with the two using pop guns and toy cannons on each other. It’s a silly, and fun short where Donald is mostly punished for his cruelty (and because it’s more fun to see Donald lose his temper) and things mostly work out for Chip and Dale. Unlike Mickey’s Good Deed, this one will pop up from time to time on the Disney channel during the holiday season. Otherwise, it can be found on some compilation releases and the Treasures release The Chronological Donald Volume 3.
Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952)
Despite what it’s title suggests, Pluto’s Christmas Tree is actually considered a Mickey Mouse short instead of a Pluto one, for some reason. It’s also one of the few shorts to feature Jimmy Macdonald as Mickey Mouse, as Walt found he didn’t have the time to voice the character any longer. Pluto’s Christmas Tree is actually fairly similar to Toy Tinkers. Mickey and Pluto set out to get a Christmas tree and they settle on one that happens to be occupied by Chip and Dale. Once inside the house, Chip and Dale immediately start to make themselves comfortable in the Christmas tree while Pluto takes notice. Pluto tries, in vain, to point out the chipmunks to Mickey who just sees Pluto’s antics as the usual. Eventually he can’t take it anymore and attacks the tree, finally revealing the chipmunks to Mickey who basically has the opposite reaction as Pluto. The short ends with Christmas carols, where the chipmunks take issue with Pluto’s singing voice. This is another wildly entertaining Chip and Dale story mostly full of slapstick humor. This one is really easy to get ahold of as it’s been released several times on VHS and DVD and is one of the most well-received Disney shorts.
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
Mickey’s Christmas Carol is fairly recent compared with the other shorts. It’s also quite easy to catch on television or find on DVD and was even recently rereleased on Blu Ray (along with Pluto’s Christmas Tree, among others) this year. It’s the classic Dickens’ tale with Mickey as Bob Cratchit and Minnie as his wife. Scrooge McDuck is, naturally, the film’s Scrooge while other Disney characters show up in supporting roles. As far as takes on A Christmas Carol go, this one is my favorite as it’s both funny and poignant and the inclusion of Disney characters somehow makes it more relatable. The recent re-release does make it all the more obvious that one giant Christmas release from Disney is necessary. Mickey’s Christmas Carol is also how many were first introduced to the longest running voice of Mickey Mouse, Wayne Allwine (who passed away in 2009), and also marks the final performance of the original Donald, Clarence “Ducky” Nash.
Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999)
Once Upon a Christmas is a traditionally animated direct-to-video collection of three shorts starring Donald, Goofy, and Mickey. It’s shown annually on television still and represents the modern Mickey Mouse and friends. The first short, titled Stuck on Christmas, stars Donald and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie and is a take on the story of What if Christmas Were Every Day? In it, the three boys wish it could be Christmas every day and are then forced to deal with the consequences. It’s a bit like Groundhog Day, in that the boys need to be considerate of others and have the perfect day to undo the spell. The second short, A Very Goofy Christmas, stars Goofy and his son Max as Goofy tries to prove to Max that there is a Santa Claus after their neighbor Pete informs him there’s no such thing. The third short, Mickey and Minnie’s The Gift of the Magi, once again depicts Mickey as rather poor as both he and Minnie try to scrounge up some money to buy each other the perfect Christmas gift with both discovering the only thing that matters is having each other. The animation on all three is pretty well done and it’s kind of fun to see modernized versions of the characters. Aside from the Mickey short, the others tend to run a bit too long and run out of steam towards the end. It’s a solid Christmas special but falls short of being a classic due mostly to the pacing issues.
Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004)
Another direct-to-video Christmas special, Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas is naturally the sequel to Once Upon
a Christmas, though the stories contain no obvious references to the previous ones. Differing itself from its predecessor, Twice Upon a Christmas is entirely computer animated and the results are something less than spectacular. The characters are mostly harmed by the transition to 3D models which makes sense considering they were never drawn for such a look to begin with. This collection also contains five shorts which does address the pacing issues from the first set. The shorts are: Belles on Ice, Christmas: Impossible, Christmas Maximus, Donald’s Gift, and Mickey’s Dog-Gone Christmas. The first one stars Minnie and Daisy as competitive figure skaters and is easily the worst of the set. There just isn’t much to it. Christmas: Impossible stars Huey, Dewey, and Louie as they sneak into Santa’s workshop to get on the nice list. It’s kind of cute, but the CG really shows its limitations as the should-be wondrous Santa’s workshop is really unimpressive looking. Christmas Maximus stars Goofy and Max, who’s now returning home for the holidays from college with his new sweetheart. It’s only slightly better than Belles on Ice but is ultimately forgettable. I also found Max’s look to be really off-putting for some reason. Donald’s Gift is a rather simple Donald tale where his grumpiness and overall bad demeanor nearly ruin Christmas for his family, but he redeems himself in the end. I’m a Donald sucker, so I was entertained by this one but it can’t hold a candle to Donald’s classic shorts. Mickey’s Dog-Gone Christmas is definitely the strongest of the collection as Pluto runs away to the North Pole after Mickey gets mad at him. There he befriends Santa’s reindeer and adopts the moniker Murray (Murray Christmas, get it?!) and even gets to fly. The reindeer characters are entertaining, and the CG look actually works for Pluto, though I still prefer the traditional look. Eventually Pluto is reunited by Santa with his depressed owner and everyone’s happy in the end. Overall, this is a weak collection and the CG makes it hard to watch. Check it out if you happen to catch it on TV, but don’t feel like you need to go out of your way to see it.